Posted by Editoress on 03/10/18
Annika Langvad (Specialized) continued her remarkable streak of wins at the opening round of the Mountain Bike World Cup, winning the Elite women's race for the fourth consecutive year on Saturday in Stellenbosch, South Africa. Catharine Pendrel (Clif Pro Team) was the top Canadian, in seventh place.
The Stellenbosch course was very dry and dusty; as might be expected from the ongoing water shortages the region is facing. This, coupled with the short, steep climbs and technical sections of the course, meant it was difficult to avoid mistakes, which could easily cost seconds.
Langvad jumped into the lead on the first lap, with Pauline Ferrand Prevot (Canyon Factory XC) in second and Under-23 rider Anne Tauber (CST Sandd American Eagle) third. Prevot and Langvad rode together for the first half of the race, until Langvad made a mistake on Lap 4, on one of the steep climbs, having to put her foot down, which allowed Ferrand Prevot to get away.
The French rider, back in top form after a season of illness and injury, opened a gap of 12 seconds, but the Danish rider rejoined her within half a lap and then rode away in the last lap and a half to win by 13 seconds. Tauber took third at 34 seconds.
"I have no idea why I am so good [at the start of the season], admitted Langvad. "It was a really good day for me, amazingly since I struggled a lot this week in training. I felt the pressure [of winning last three opening rounds] and I knew my shape was good. But I got fed up of putting pressure on myself and said 'you know what, just go out there and smash it, and don't give a bleep about anything else'."
"It's such an intense course and so easy to make small mistakes. Even though I had a stick in my wheel, and I had to unclip and run some stuff ... but I'm really satisfied because I managed to keep composed and come back."
There was a real battle for the final two podium spots. World champion Jolanda Neff (Kross Racing) -racing five weeks after breaking her clavicle at a Cyclo-cross World Cup - and Pendrel held fourth and fifth for most of the race, until Neff's team mate Maja Wloszczowksa joined them on the last lap, with the two Kross riders dropping Pendrel in the final half lap. Helen Grobert (Cannondale Factory) then caught Pendrel and jumped across to the two Kross riders in the final 500 metres, beating them in a three-way sprint for fourth, just ahead of Wloszczowska.
"I felt great," said Pendrel, "just needed a little more dig last lap, but racing always helps train the race brain and I look forward to fighting for the podium again at the next one."
Other Canadian results include Canadian champion Emily Batty (Trek Factory) in 14th, Haley Smith (Norco Factory) in 23rd, Cindy Montambault in 34th and Rebecca Beaumont in 44th.
Haley Smith - "I had a solid day out on course, but didn't quite have the legs I expected to. I'm happy with my effort and I had a ton of fun tailing the techy bits of the course. It IS only March, so lots of time and room for improvement. The course was awesome and the fans were super inspiring. Despite not having quite the result I wanted, I'll remember this as a pretty special race. It definitely goes in the 'favourites' compartment of my racing history!"
Canada had no riders in the Under-23 women's race, where Malene Degn (Ghost Factory) took control on the second lap, dropping favourites Sina Frei (Ghost Factory) and Evie Richards (Trek Factory), who finished second and third, respectively.
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